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‘Ineligible’ expenses academic in trouble

Academic also penalised €9,600 for failing to comply with stipulated handover

Expense claims and high mobile phone usage have landed a distinguished Maltese academic in trouble with the Slovenian Government, The Times has learned.

Joseph Mifsud, the former director of the University of Malta’s international office, allegedly owes at least €39,000 to Slovenian-based EMUNI University for expenses claimed during his tenure as president.

According to an audit report commissioned by EMUNI, his mobile phone usage last year cost €13,767, when he was only eligible for €3,600.

“The Slovenian Government is awaiting documentation from EMUNI in relation to this matter and shall consider whether to pursue judicial proceedings, be they civil and/or criminal, against Dr Mifsud,” a spokesman for the Slovenian Minister of Higher Education said.

The spokesman added that action was being considered in liaison with OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud agency.

Dr Mifsud owes a total of €39,332 in wrongly-claimed expenses, mobile phone “over-sage” and penalties regarding “incompliance” with his handover of business duties, according to the same report.

For failing to comply with the stipulated handover, Dr Mifsud was also penalised €9,600. In addition, the audit report found €15,377 in “ineligible expenses” taken without providing the necessary documentation and €14,024 in mobile expenses exceeding his annual allowance of €3,600.

This emerged from a review of EMUNI’s accounts, which took place after Dr Mifsud resigned from his role as president in July 2012.

“Taking into account only the most recent financial year, 2012, the ineligible expenses of the former president partially contributed to the loss generated by EMUNI University,” says the report, adding it still has to decide about an additional €13,000 on a separate issue involving the Albanian Diplomatic Academy.

Dr Mifsud addressed a news conference with Labour leader Joseph Muscat about an initiative to bring more tertiary education pluralism to Malta.

When contacted, Dr Mifsud, who also served as personal assist-ant of then Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Frendo, said his case of alleged wrongdoing was a “private matter” and his lawyers had responded to the “legal communications” by EMUNI.

He argued that the case was only becoming public because of “political reasons” tied to the fact that the Labour Party had acted on an international project he had promoted to both parties.

“I can only give you one comment. I was not employed by the Slovenian Government but by EMUNI, a private university. I have not had any communication with the Slovenian Government of my wrongdoing,” said Dr Mifsud.

“For me this is a non-issue because if there is an issue we will go to litigation and we will find a solution,” he said, adding that his lawyers would take care of the case “civilly”.

According to the Labour Party, Dr Mifsud is simply a “consultant” for INTO – University Partnerships, a company that operates universities worldwide and plans to invest in Malta.

“Dr Mifsud has no relationship with the Labour Party. He acts as a consultant to INTO – University Partnerships, who have expressed an interest in our proposal to open up to more choice in tertiary education,” said a Labour spokesman.

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